August 29, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Defiance”


The third season of DEFIANCE may have been its most assured and cohesive to date.  However, as the most expensive of Syfy’s low-rated trio of Friday scripted summer shows, its fate has been far from certain.  In fact, tonight’s season finale, written by series co-creator Kevin Murphy and directed by Michael Nankin, felt overwhelmingly like a conclusion to the series as a whole, even if it left a slight door open for a possible return.

Season 3 separated neatly into two sections, possibly with the idea that the network might air them on a split basis.  Each subseason featured its own Big Bad.  The first 8 episodes had the ruthless Votanis Collective General Rahm Tahk, who conscripted Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) and wife Stahma (Jaime Murray) into becoming his anti-human spies and terrorists by taking their son Alak (Jesse Rath) captive.  The storyline was resolved when the seemingly unkillable Datak cut off his own arm, which had a bomb implanted in it, in Rahm Tahk’s tent, escaping before the camp blew up.

The last 5 episodes concentrated on the Omec, who’d been introduced during the first part of the season, and who had purple-tinged skin (although they were somewhat disquietingly all played by black actors) and a habit of hunting humans and then eating them with their impressively elongated mouths and fangs.  The leader of the Omec, T’evgin (Conrad Coates), became peace-minded once he’d fallen for Stahma Tarr, but his daughter Kindzi (Nichole Galicia) was somewhat less inclined to diplomacy, torturing and then murdering her father (and eating his heart), and announcing her plan to bring the rest of the Omec to Earth, where they could survive by devouring the humans.

That, of course, prompted our heroes to action, and although Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) was stabbed by an Omec and needed to be taken care of by Stahma, Lawkeeper Nolan (Grant Bowler), his adopted Irathien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), Datak, and Doc Yewil (Trenna Keating)–who’d recently been enslaved by Kindzi–set out for the Omec spacecraft, initially with the idea of destroying it and all its Omec inhabitants, who were in suspended animation.

Murphy’s script found room not just for the expected action sequences, including a final confrontation between Nolan and Kindzi that ended with her stabbed and flung (unfortunately in a very shoddy CG shot) into the ship’s engines, but some effective character scenes.  Amanda and Stahma had as close to a reconciliation as the show’s history could comfortably allow, a potential romance was set up between Irisa and Alak, and in the climactic sequence, Nolan agreed to Irisa’s plea that the Omec be sent into space rather than blown up, but when it was clear that someone would have to stay behind to reverse the engines and pilot the ship, he forced her to leave and remained himself.  An epilogue sequence made it clear that all our Earthly heroes were doing well, and after a 2001-ish hallucinatory journey through many light-years, we saw Nolan jauntily behind the Omec craft’s controls.  (Presumably Doc, who’d literally plugged the ship’s operating system into herself, was also alive somewhere, although possibly not very comfortable.)   There wasn’t really anything left to be resolved, although a TV show that gets renewed can always find a way back, even from light-years away.

Syfy doesn’t make many big programming investments, and Defiance never delivered the ratings return the network had been hoping for.  (It’s not clear how successful the online game that was developed in conjunction with the show has been.)  It was uneven, but well-cast, and with a welcome dry sense of humor.  Syfy has certainly done worse.  Its next two shots at a breakout hit will come in December, with the arrivals of The Expanse and Childhood’s End.  If both of those under-deliver, who knows?  Nolan may have to find his way back to Earth.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."